After an extensive gestation period, OSS Watch are pleased to have jointly published 3 documents on the important subject of Governance Models for open source projects. That is excellent value for your money.
The documents on our web site undergo a rigorous quality assurance process that ensure they are technically correct and well scribed. The result in this case is an comprehensive introduction to a topic that can be over looked by projects, or may cause confusion and uncertainty.
I have on several occasions heard lead developers say that if they make their code open source they fear they will loose control and anyone can update their source, leading to chaos. As you read these documents you will see that this clearly should not be the case. The project leaders remain in control, in fact they make the decisions on who the leaders are and how the project is controlled. The governance model describes how this happens.
Having a governance model in place is one of the clear marks of an open source project that practices open development. That is, it marks a project that positively encourages community engagement.
Governance models provides an introduction to the what, why and wherefore of managing an open source project.
A governance model describes the roles that project participants can take on and the process for decision making within the project. In addition, it describes the ground rules for participation in the project and the processes for communicating and sharing within the project team and community. It is the governance model that prevents an open source project from descending into chaos. This document explains why a governance model is necessary, considers some of the challenges associated with adopting a governance model in open source projects, and looks at the key areas such a model needs to cover. It also describes how to encapsulate your governance model in a governance document.
Meritocratic governance model provides a detailed insight into this common model that is lead by an elected leadership team or ‘board’. A template is provided for use by projects interested in applying this model.
The meritocratic governance model is a commonly found model in which participants gain influence over a project through the recognition of their contributions. The Apache Software Foundation (ASF) is perhaps the most famous example of a large-scale meritocratic community. The foundation operates with an almost completely ‘flat’ structure, which means that anyone willing to contribute can engage with their projects at any level.
Benevolent dictator governance model describes another popular model where one person leads the project and has a final say in decisions. Again a template is provided for projects wanting to use this model.
A benevolent dictatorship is a project controlled by a single leader. Perhaps the most commonly cited example of the benevolent dictator model is the Linux Kernel project, which is run under the direct decision making leadership of Linus Torvalds. Being a benevolent dictator is not an easy job. It requires diplomacy and community building skills, in-depth technical knowledge of all aspects of the project, and exceptional levels of commitment and dedication. However, as the Linux Kernel project illustrates, it can be very effective.
With any project, good leadership or management are vital, and these documents will help you install the basics with little overhead. If your project already has a governance model in place then these documents could help you refine it, perhaps by making it explicit. If you don’t yet have one, then these document will help you decide what model best suits your style, and quickly get it into operation.
And you can do it all without any sign of pointy hair.